Buddhism is Hard Work

SN858103I’m heading toward the end of my first week at Ratna Ling. It was touch and go there for a couple of days, but I think it might work out. Before I get into all the deep, mental shit I’ve been dealing with, let me explain a little about the place.

First off, it is beautiful up here. We are tucked away on something like 25 acres of land. We are surrounded by trees and all sorts of critters. It’s pretty rad. We (my boyfriend and I) have a nice little cabin all to ourselves, and it even has a fireplace. The staff cabins are a five-minute walk from the main lodge where we eat our meals, and about an eight minute walk for me to get to “work” each day.

The critters: So far I have seen quail, ducks, coots, squirrels, mini horses, deer, jack rabbits, peahens, eagles, and even a couple of cats.

I work in here

I work in here

My job: Ratna Ling has an on-site book bindery. I had no idea what that meant until I was thrust into working there. It’s no joke. I’d show you pictures, but they don’t allow photographs inside because we produce sacred texts. The books are made on-sight from beginning to end. There are huge machines that do everything: cut, collate, aerate, trim, ect. We hand stamp the cardboard covers and hand wrap them in traditional Tibetan style. It is a LOT of hard work. I cried a little.

We have various projects, but right now we are working on the 200+ volumes of a traditional Tibetan book. Non Western style. That means the book is long and rectangular and it is not bound. It is banded together. I know because I banded them together for 10 hours today. These are sacred texts, so there are certain things that must be done. For instance – if a page of text falls on the floor we must pick it up and touch it to our forehead. If a page rips in a machine it is not thrown out, we hand tape it together. We chant before and after work, (in Tibetan) and we are encouraged to stop and stretch.

SN858098We also practice “essential speech” while at work. That means no idle chatter. It’s not a strict thing, but we don’t talk a lot at work. And you couldn’t anyway. It’s too loud. The machines are LOUD. I wear earplugs all day. Which means 8am – 6pm with an hour for lunch, and two, thirty minute breaks. And we work 6 days a week.

Food: Well, of course it’s vegetarian. That’s fine. But I have to be honest. I am a little more than disappointed in the food. Basically, we are on our own for breakfast. We raid the fridge for yogurt and fruit. SN858101Yes, there is coffee. Lunch is made for us by the kitchen staff and we get the food buffet style. And dinner is usually leftover lunch. And here is my problem. If you have a full-time cook and kitchen staff (I refuse to call him a Chef) then wouldn’t you expect them to cook? So far we have been offered a shit-ton of various salad, couscous, and tofu in different sauces. Seriously. None of that requires actual cooking. What do they do all day in the kitchen? I know how long it takes to prep a salad and that leaves them approximately 4.5 hours to come up with something better. Like… pasta!

These are what the books I'm making look like

These are what the books I’m making look like

People: There are a lot of different people living and working here. About thirty, I think. We are the newest people here, so it’s a little like the first week at a new school. There are a few people who act like the douche seniors on campus, but for the most part folks here have been really nice. Some of the other volunteers have been here for ten years or more. That’s a long time to be at a place like this. But once I started thinking about it, it made sense. Living here takes all of the guess work out of life. It takes all of the decisions out of life. There is no looking for work, or friends with a common interest. You don’t have to shop or worry about food. There is a schedule for every day, with exercise and meditation built in. One girl I met has been here three years and she’s only 24 years old. She hasn’t lived in the real world at all. And as hard as you work up here (and you work hard) this is not the real world. It’s a different world. A separate world.

So, that’s it for now. It’s 7:45 and I’m beat. It was a long day. It’s getting a little easier being here each day. Hopefully by the next post I’ll have attended some classes and I can give you all a little more information on Kum nye yoga and skillful means. That’s also part of what we do up here. But again, I’m too tired to write anymore.

Until next time…

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